ethiopiantimes

April 2, 2012

Ethiopian Teachers on strike

Filed under: Uncategorized — ethiopiantimes @ 8:52 am
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High School Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, April 1, 2012 (Ezega.com) – Whoever said teaching is the most fulfilling profession, he/she is probably right. As a person who was involved in teaching, I can give the testimony for its revitalizing fulfillment. Being a teacher is not only teaching. It is also learning. Whatever profession comes out of it, there is nothing rewarding and progressive as being a teacher.

In a country like Ethiopia, especially at this era, teaching is the most demanding work of all. Dealing with a generation that is confused by globalization, poverty, and several identity crises, isn’t an easy task at all. Today, teachers are not only occupying themselves with academic issues, but also dealing with other fundamental behavioral and psychological matters. Especially in junior and high schools, many teachers would tell you their day-to-day struggle to keep the students on track.

However, in Ethiopia, being a teacher is also a road to automatic financial insecurity. Especially for those who teach from kindergarten to preparatory schools, teaching is economic suicide. The government pays the lowest salary, which can hardly cope up with the current expense of life.

Since Ethiopia is still a country looking to fulfill basic needs, all the emotional reward of teaching is hardly a point of focus. For a hungry person, without proper shelter and closing, working entirely for the soul is not really a choice.

As a result, teaching has nowadays become the most disrespected profession in the country. In universities, students of teaching departments get less respect than other students. For a freshman, joining teaching departments is a nightmare. If it were a choice, most would refuse to join those faculties. With all they do for the country, teachers at the end of the day are at the bottom of the economic setup. Since our society today values people entirely with their income status, teachers lost the respect and appreciation they deserve. Therefore, for most, the profession this world owes so much has become the source of disgrace and regret. Teachers in Ethiopia have lost in most fronts in life.

This misery was the reason for the current Ethiopian teachers’ quest to raise many fundamental questions including salary raise. Led by one of the oldest association in the country, Ethiopian Teachers Association, teachers in Ethiopia claimed improvement for their salary. The government, first, did not welcome this question. However, when the issue got serious and the association threatens nationwide strike, the government had to start listening.

Of course, the time is not the best for Ethiopia to think on salary raise. The government is most desperate to collect the money even from its citizen’s pockets. The reason might be, in addition to the runaway inflation, the time is when the nation is under construction of some of the most expensive projects in the country’s history. Therefore, even if we assume the government understands the rising cost of living that is challenging most civil servants, including teachers, raising salary is another headache they do not wish to deal with.

However, when the most crucial members of the society are planning a strike, finding a way out was very essential. Teachers association in Ethiopia has large number of members than any other professional association. It is strong and of course, as the name indicates, it is full of educated people who can manage to plan a way to get to the government.

Therefore, after some doubts the government agreed to raise the salary of teachers. However, that changed everything for the worst. The raise was noticeably insignificant. The teachers even take it as offending and claim it is another way the government is showing its disregard for them. In some cases, for some levels, the amount of the raise is 75-100 birr, which in the current inflationary environment can be considered nothing.

The Association agreed with the Civil Service Minister, announcing on ETV this will change the lives of teachers in Ethiopia. This created a new fight between the teachers and their Association. Teachers started claiming the association no more represents them. Therefore, they seem to begin handling the matters in their own hands.

The current claim is not only about the salary, but also a moral issue. The teachers are saying it was unethical for the Civil Service Minister to say the salary is life changing and it owes them a huge apology for it. Therefore, they are calling for a statement from the government apologizing for the mistake. They also want a promise of improvement on their salary within limited period.

Civil Service Minister does not agree with all of this. The office is saying they did not mean to say the salary would change the lives of the teachers. Rather, the teachers interpreted their speech to appear something they did not mean.

 In some high and preparatory schools in Addis Ababa this week, teachers are on strike. However, the Addis Ababa Education Bureau ordered them to return to their post, this does not seem to change things. In one of the oldest high schools in Addis Ababa, Kokeb Tsebah, around 120 names of teachers was posted on the notice board with an order to stop their strike and be back to their posts. Similar measures are taken in several schools in Addis Ababa.

The current strike leaders and supporters believe that by striking they are exercising their constitutional right. The Ethiopian constitution article 42 provides strike as a democratic right. The article states that government employers under a certain level of responsibility (though this terminology can be open for arguments) have the right to express grievances including the right to strike.

Whether teachers are in or out of the category for ‘certain level of responsibility’ is up to the constitutional enquiry to define. Still, the labor proclamation under article 157 provides that workers have the right to strike to protect their interest. Teachers in several schools seem to be confident about their right to show their complaint through strikes. This is against warnings by the schools to consider their strike as willful resignation if they are not back within a limited period.

Though the government of Ethiopia loves to treat everything as a political issue, at the beginning the teachers’ claim was purely economic. The suspicions of the government that may be the teachers have an agenda other than salary raise, was far from the truth. This is because, knowing the incomes of the teachers, it is even a surprise they waited this long to raise this question.

However, when matters other than politics are not dealt well, they sure will change their features. In every upheaval and political changes, the very first issue is barely related to politics. Therefore, some are suggesting that the government must stop undermining the strike of the teachers and find appropriate solutions and answers to their question.

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